India announces new envoys to China, US

India announces new envoys to China, US

India on Thursday announced its new envoys to the United States and China, ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to both Washington and Beijing.

S Jaishankar, currently New Delhi’s envoy to Beijing, has been appointed India’s new ambassador to the US. He will succeed Nirupama Rao.

Ashok Kantha, currently Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), will succeed Jaishankar as India’s new ambassador to China. Official sources in the MEA said both the top diplomats would take up their new assignments shortly.

The new envoys were appointed ahead of the prime minister’s visit to the US and China. Manmohan Singh will travel to Washington DC in the fourth week of the current month on a bilateral visit to the US. He will go to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. The prime minister will also visit China in the third week of October.

Both the visits, perhaps the last by Singh before his second term as the prime minister ends in May 2014, are being seen as crucial for New Delhi’s engagements with the US and China.

Jaishankar, who joined Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1977, has been New Delhi’s envoy to Beijing since August 2009. He was India’s ambassador to Czech Republic from 2000 till 2004 and High Commissioner to Singapore from 2007 till 2009. He headed the Americas Division in the headquarters of the MEA from 2004 till 2007, when he actively took part in India’s engagements with the US for the civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Speculation about Jaishankar being appointed Foreign Secretary, leaving behind front-runner Sujatha Singh and other senior diplomats, had created a flutter in the MEA.

Several diplomats senior to him reportedly threatened to resign to protest against the move that was apparently initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).